Nº 3 2014 > Editorial
Broadband for sustainable development
World Telecommunication and Information Society Award
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré ITU Secretary‑General
Honouring three laureates for their leadership in broadband and ICT for sustainable development
On the occasion of the 17 May celebrations marking the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (celebrated this year on 16 May, 17 May being a Saturday), I presented the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award 2014 to three leaders who have dedicated themselves to promoting information and communication technologies (ICT) and broadband connectivity as a means of achieving sustainable development: Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea (represented by Choi Mun-kee, Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning); and Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation.
Each year, ITU celebrates World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on 17 May to mark its founding in 1865. This year our theme, as adopted by the ITU Council in 2013, was “Broadband for Sustainable Development˝ — which was also the theme of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14). Eminent representatives of ITU Council Member States, including Council 2014 Chairman Aboubakar Zourmba, attended the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day celebrations.
Our distinguished laureates have inspired us all, and they have supported ITU’s work with tremendous commitment and leadership. They have pushed for high-speed broadband connectivity, opening up new avenues to communicate anytime, anywhere. Broadband connectivity is a critical element in ensuring that ICT can be used for the effective delivery of a vast range of services including health, education, governance, trade, commerce and so much more. Broadband-based networks are powerful cross-cutting enablers to achieve the three pillars of sustainable development — economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance. This is why ITU is committed to achieving universal access to broadband connectivity — and to fostering the political will needed to achieve this objective.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shared a message with us stating categorically that information and communication technologies are powerhouses of the global economy, offering solutions for sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity. Mr Ban emphasized that broadband networks provide smart eco-friendly ways of managing cities and transport systems, enhance the efficiency of manufacturing industries, and make it possible to conduct long-distance diagnosis and treatment of patients in remote locations. He recognized that broadband also enables innovative educational applications worldwide.
ITU and the Broadband Commission for Digital Development are at the forefront of advocating the roll-out of broadband. President Kagame and Mr Slim co-chair this Commission, and together they have convinced governments, experts, academics and citizens in United Nations Member States that broadband and ICT are vital for the future of our planet. To serve humanity, we must ensure that broadband is a central element of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
We need to identify gaps in broadband research and development, infrastructure, and applications and services. We need to set policy priorities for allocating radio-frequency spectrum for broadband and fulfilling universal access obligations. And we need innovative financing mechanisms and leading edge technological solutions, particularly in extending broadband access to rural areas, least developed countries and small island developing States.
The right to communicate is synonymous with the information society. It is a key principle for equitable, affordable and universal access to information and knowledge that in turn empower people to meet their aspirations and achieve their development goals. For nearly 150 years, ITU has been the one organization devoted to making it possible for people everywhere — wherever they may be, even in the remotest corners of the world — to communicate.
This year’s Council session decided that the Union’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015 will focus on ITU’s innovative achievements and their impact on daily life throughout history and in the future. It also decided that the theme to mark the 150th anniversary celebrations and World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2015 itself is, “Telecommunications and ICTs: Drivers of innovation”.
Let me therefore invite all our members to celebrate ITU’s 150th anniversary by organizing, under this theme, activities worthy of the achievements we have made so far and to continue to innovate for a better future for all.